Madagascar History Part II

By | May 7, 2021

The cruel widow of Radama I, Ranavalona I, ruled for 33 years and established a kingdom that was characterized by brutal oppression, the prohibition of Christianity and the expulsion of Europeans. Ranavalona established a veritable reign of terror. In particular, the “justice” carried out in the manner of a divine judgment with the help of a poisonous drink (tangena) cost thousands of people their lives. By 1850 Madagascar had been driven into almost complete isolation. Ranavalonia’s son, Rakoto, but wanted to earn money from the Europeans: he asked Napoleon III. to send a force to Madagascar. The people rebelled. A French ambassador managed to quell the revolt and thereby secure the favor of Rakoto. In 1858 he signed the so-called Lambert Charter in which J.-F. Lambert was granted the right to exploit the island’s natural resources and forests with a fee to the Merina Empire. When the queen died in 1861, Rakoto became king under the name Radama II. He brought about numerous reforms and now again encouraged the Europeans to come to Madagascar and do business. The king was murdered by a Howa conspiracy and his widow Rasoherina ascended the throne. She married that Prime Minister Rainilairarivony. After the death of Rasoherina, Ranavalona II became queen and again married Rainilairarivony. Ranavalona II was the first Merina monarch to be baptized as an Anglican Protestant. During her reign until 1883, English became Madagascar’s second official language. Ranavalona III ruled as the last Merina monarch. from 1883-1897 and married Rainilairarivony as the third queen in a row. This can be considered the actual ruler for the period up to 1883. In 1883 the first Franco-Malagasy War broke out, in which France inherited from Madagascar Jean Laborde, a French technician and architect who attained wealth and honor in the time of Ranavalona I. The dispute also flared up over the validity of the Lambert Charter. France annexed Antsiranana (Diego-Suarez) in 1885, heralding the end of the Merina monarchy.

The colonial era

At the Congo Conference in Berlin in 1885, Madagascar was awarded to the French and the island became a French protectorate. The bitter resistance of the Malagasy people against the French colonial power culminated in a second invasion in 1895, in which Antananarivo was captured. In addition to several thousand Madagascans, many soldiers also died of diseases. The economic exploitation and political reorganization of Madagascar by France went hand in hand with a brutal and bitter fight against population resistance. To break the Malagasy resistance, the highest dignitaries of the Merina and Ranavalona III were killed in 1897 – a year after Madagascar was appointed a French colony- exiled to La Réunion and later to Algeria. The Malagasy people and their culture have been suppressed, history books have been rewritten, and access of the Malagasy people to higher education has been restricted. French became the official language. The agricultural transformation was evident in the clearing of huge primary forest in order to create coconut, sisal or tobacco plantations. The poverty of the population was increased by the introduction of a poll tax (through the implementation of the “Code d´Indigénat). The Madagascans were treated as second class people. The French General Joseph Gallieni in particular was considered extremely brutal. The Infrastructure was created through the construction of roads, but above all through the construction of railways that thousands of Chinese pushed forward under unspeakable working conditions. In World War I, thousands of Madagascans fought for the French army. Malagasy soldiers were also used in World War II. In addition, Madagascar became a plaything between France and England. England sent troops to Madagascar and occupied Antsiranana in 1943. After the end of the war, the island was returned to France.

Little is known about the “Madagascar Plan ” devised by the National Socialists, which envisaged the deportation of German and Polish Jews to Madagascar. But it did not get to that.

After the Second World War, France had plans to turn the island into a French overseas department. Madagascar’s MPs in the French Parliament founded the MDRM (Mouvement Démocratique de la Renovation Malgache) in 1945, but they could not prevent the island from being declared French territory and all Madagascans receiving French citizenship. That was not without protest. In 1947 the “Great Uprising” (L’insurrection malgache de 1947), in which French soldiers fought the Malagasy rice farmers. After a year, the uprising was suppressed, with countless deaths, different sources estimate differently (10,000 to 100,000 deaths). The great uprising is considered the first step in the decolonization of Madagascar. In addition to the MDRM, other resistance groups such as the PANAMA or the JINA were founded.

According to computerannals, after bloody battles with the colonial power France, universal suffrage was introduced in Madagascar in 1956, which now also allowed Madagascans, and not just French, to vote. This also made it possible to form an independent Malagasy government. Two years later, an official vote was held for the country’s autonomy. The first constitution of Madagascar dates from 1959 and in the same year the first elections took place, the Philibert Tsiranana with his party Parti Social Démocrate de Madgasacar(PSD) won and thus became the first President of the young Republic of Madagascar. However, there were no general elections, rather the parliament appointed Tsiranana president. Tsiranana was known for its close cooperation with France, so some critics claimed that there was no sovereign, but only nominal, independence from France under the first president.

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